As a business owner, you probably intuitively understand that having a standardized dress code for your employees can make them look and feel more like a team. It’s also a useful tool for conveying the kind of brand image you’re aiming for to potential customers and clients. But navigating how you implement and enforce the rules, where you need to stand firm and when you need to be more considerate can be tricky to say the least. Here are a few tips to help you get it right!
Lead by example
The single best way to show your staff the look and level of formality you’d like them to emulate is the way you dress each day. Having your employee handbook say one thing, but dressing yourself differently, can lead to confusion and frustration. Make it clear that the rules apply to everyone, even you.
If you’re allowing casual Fridays, then make sure you take part too. This shows your employees that you’re not just paying lip service to the idea, but that it really is okay form them to let their hair down when it’s appropriate. If you’re meeting with an important client, make an extra effort. Even if it’s just subconsciously, your behavior will set the standard for all your staff.
Have clear, easy to understand guidelines
Fashion is always going to be a highly subjective thing, so taking the guesswork out of what to wear as much as possible can go a long way. Don’t be afraid to use pictures, as phrases like ‘business casual’ ‘business formal’ and ‘corporate wear’ don’t always mean the same thing to everyone!
You also don’t want to run the risk of sounding too patronizing though, so throwing in a little bit of humor with a couple of amusing ‘don’t do this’ examples can be useful to lighten the mood.
Get employee feedback before you finalize the rules
It’s impossible to predict how individuals might be affected by a change in the rules, so try and get as much feedback beforehand as possible. Sometimes implementing a new dress code can cause issues you would never have foreseen – it might be a financial stressor if people feel they now need to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe, or you might be unknowingly treading on cultural or religious toes. If you get the sense people are nervous to speak up, then an anonymous survey or feedback platform can be a good idea.
Examine your motivations
Sometimes we enforce a dress code just because it seems like the right thing to do, and this can cause frustration with staff. Understanding what you actually want to achieve with the business’ image is vital, because if you don’t understand it, how are you going to motivate it to your employees? It always makes good business sense to have your staff understand the ‘why’ behind the tasks you assign them, and how you want them to dress is no exception.
Different strokes for different folks?
Applying one standard dress code across the board sounds fair, and most of the time it’s the best way to avoid confusion. But bear in mind that highly creative individuals can find the rules stifling, and if they rarely meet with clients in person, it might actually be better to relax the rules for them. Use common sense where it’s applicable.
Prepare to be tested
Like any sweeping change at the office, there are always going to be those individuals who like to push the boundaries and test your nerve! Oh, ties are compulsory now? Great, I’ve been wanting to whip out this polka dot number for ages!
The best way to deal with this is to have it clear in your own mind what’s just not acceptable, and nip these behaviors in the bud before they get out of hand. Make sure the punishment fits the crime, and that you deal with transgressions kindly but firmly.
Reward good behavior
If someone is obviously making an effort to do better, make it clear that you’ve noticed and appreciate it. This is especially true of those ‘problem children’ who might have shown resistance at first. Keep an eye open for good changes, and make sure you offer praise where it’s due.
Having your workers adhere to a dress code makes a lot of business sense – it’s more impressive to clients, and it encourages a sense of belonging. Looking good also tends to lead to more confidence, and can increase productivity and purpose accordingly. With these hints, we’re sure you’ll find the one that’s right for your office!